“As you grow, organization is the key to building a product your community loves.”

Alex Dao, Senior Manager of Community Development at Vimeo, walked us through Vimeo’s successful growth through the years.

Vimeo is a remarkably creative community that differs quite drastically from other video sites, as they make money through subscriptions from users who want more upload space and advanced features, rather than tacking ads onto video plays. This means it’s critical for Vimeo to have a product that members love using and are happy to pay for.

In 2009, their modest team of 20 catered to a very niche community of filmmakers. With such a small team, Product and Community were seated right next to each other, which meant user feedback reached the Product team quickly and organically.

In 2012, the company began growing rapidly, but as they scaled, Vimeo prioritized staying true to the original community. Now with 175 employees, the communication between Community and Product simply cannot be as direct as it once was. Because they can no longer say, “We have this great idea that we got from some users,” at the spur of the moment, it’s up to the Community team to paint a really clear picture of what the community needs for the Product team and how Vimeo can deliver it.

How to Bring Your Community into Your Product Process

Alex breaks down the process of organizing product feedback as follows.

  • As you grow, specialize and organize
  • Scale feedback with support
  • Share feedback widely
  • Research with your community
  • Prevention is the best medicine

1. Specialize and organize

“As your company grows, generalists will become specialists.”

The Community team at Vimeo now consists of 20 members, and as it grew people began specializing and focusing on specific product features. This is hugely beneficial for the team, because Support Specialists are able to handle tricky support escalations, and they’re able to keep internal and external help docs up-to-date. Having specialists amongst the Community team, they’re able to establish a “much deeper knowledge of what users want from us in every area of our product.”

2. Scale feedback with support

“Don’t just scale your support.”

It’s easy to think that as your community grows, it’s most important to focus on managing your support queues. However, it’s now more than ever that you need to stay organized while documenting your user feedback. The Support Specialists at Vimeo spend up to 40% of their time taking a step back from the support queues in order to maintain their support specialty and documentation.

3. Share Feedback Far, Wide, and Often

After organizing your feedback, sharing it with your Product team is key. The secret to doing this right is respectful reiteration. “Our communities rely on us to gather feedback and act on it,” so it’s up to us to determine what our top feedback is, and then find every way we can to share it.

At Vimeo, that means creating monthly reports that are sent to the heads of departments and the Product team. Afterward, the Community team’s goal is to bring it up as often as possible. “The more you share your message, the more common knowledge it becomes.”

Find a presentation of data that you product team loves. You need to be able to highlight prioritization and where there’s room to improve.

Feedback is integral to highlighting pain points within your community. For every user who complains, 26 others remain silent. That’s why Vimeo considers 20 cases per month a “high volume” concern, despite receiving an average of 20K cases per month. If more than 20 people ask for a feature in a month, that’s a big deal. For smaller companies, that means even a handful of cases could be considered high volume.

Don’t just share the negative, though. Share the good vibes, too. At Vimeo, they have a “Loveo” monitor to show things that people love about the product to make team members feel good about what they’re accomplishing.

4. Research with Your Community

Usability and beta testing are part of every product launch at Vimeo. You can bring in 5-10 users and have them perform some tasks on your product to highlight serious pain points. You want them to talk through their process out loud so you can highlight any major roadblocks or if users are finding your product hard to use in any way.

Testing with your users is hugely beneficial because it allows you to discover any major design flaws that may exist before you release it to your entire user base. Additionally, it shows your users that you’re truly listening to their feedback. Because Vimeo’s Community team documents all the feedback that they receive, they can find users who request certain product features and invite them to beta test when those features are in development. A personal invitation to come down to the office to test a new feature really shows users that the company is listening.

When Researching with Community Members

  • Make Them Comfortable: Warm up by asking how their day is going. How long have they been using Vimeo? What types of videos do they like to watch?
  • There are No Wrong Answers: Reassure your users that you’re not testing THEM, you’re testing the product. If they can’t figure out the product, that’s a problem with the product, not the user.
  • Avoid Leading Questions: Suppose Vimeo’s testing a new upload flow. It’d be best to ask, “Say you have a new video you just edited. How would you go about getting it on our site?” It’s important to always be goal oriented, not step oriented. You wouldn’t want to say, “What button would you press?” In fact, you wouldn’t want to mention any buttons at all.
  • Tag Team with Product and Design: Watching someone struggle to use your product, or hearing why they’d never use a feature you just spent several weeks working on really hits home. Keeping the product and design teams in the loop ensures they’re aware of the struggles that occur through the testing process.
  • Take Lots of Notes: The focus when researching should be on trends. If three people struggled with the same task, you can assume more people will struggle with it, too. One off feedback can be good, but you’re really looking for what happens repeatedly.

Up until a year ago, Vimeo users couldn’t delete more than one video at a time. That didn’t affect many of their users, but some paid users upload hundreds and thousands of videos, an it’s a huge problem if those users can’t manage their content effectively. This became glaringly apparent as the Support Specialists dug into user feedback, and thus the Organizer was born.

5. Prevention is the Best Medicine

As the new feature entered development, the Community team documented which users were asking questions about features that would be included in the Organizer, and when the beta was ready to launch, they reached out to those users to get their feedback.

After the beta test, users were given a survey, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They were able to uncover a few UI issues, which were dealt with before the full version was released, and also received a bunch of new requests for additional features.

The key in all of Alex’s learnings is that listening to your users is the most important thing you can do to develop and scale a wonderful product.

Lisi Powers

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